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Small town Bothell getting big city makeover

You can’t go anywhere in this region without your view being obstructed by a construction crane, and that extends beyond Seattle and Bellevue. Even small bedroom communities are now developing downtowns and giving the big cities a run for their money.

Just take a look at Bothell Way.

Bothell used to be the spot you drove through to skip traffic on I-405 or slide over the top of Lake Washington. And it was a quiet community without a lot of development.

Related: Don’t expect lawmakers to end I-405 tolling just yet

Not anymore. The city’s population has grown by 12,000 in the past 10 years.

“We’ve had people talk about how they used to ride their horse downtown, back in the day, that really wasn’t that long ago,” said Erin Leonhart, Bothell’s public works director. “We really have gone from a place that people would drive through, to a place that people are driving to.”

Bothell is nearly finished widening a road most people still call Highway 527. The city took it over from the state and renamed it “Bothell Way” so it could handle not only the commuters who still roll through town but also all the new residents. Not to mention all the people coming to Bothell for the new hotels and businesses, such as McMenamins.

“It’s becoming a place to be, a place to go and a great place to live, work and play,” Leonhart said. “Downtown doesn’t shut down at 5 or 6 in the evening anymore. We actually have some places to go and places to eat.”

Bothell Way: east and west

Bothell just received a grant from the state to continue its downtown expansion; to join all the new private investment on the west side of Bothell Way with the historic downtown Main Street on the east side of town. The east side of town is an area that has also seen an explosion of new development.

“To really make it a more downtown feel, rather than a highway,” Leonhart said. “And really knit together the new development happening on the west side of the former 527 with the historic east side and historic Main Street.”

The city is spending $7 million to revitalize its Main Street and make it a place to hang out and celebrate.

“We are really focusing on a pedestrian environment,” Leonhart said. “We are going to have nice, wide sidewalks, and street furnishings. So people could not only use the sidewalks for walking, but also for gathering.”

Construction on Main Street will begin later this year, about the time the widening on Bothell Way wraps up.

The city is also about to get to work on additional sidewalks and other improvements throughout the entire city, funded by the successful ballot measure in November.

Bothell is just an example of what we’re seeing around the region. Smaller cities are growing up to handle all their new residents and looking to become destinations of their own.

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